Patient-provider discussions about colorectal cancer screening: who initiates elements of informed decision making?

J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Sep;27(9):1135-41. doi: 10.1007/s11606-012-2045-1. Epub 2012 Apr 5.


Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates remain low among low-income minority populations.

Objective: To evaluate informed decision making (IDM) elements about CRC screening among low-income minority patients.

Design: Observational data were collected as part of a patient-level randomized controlled trial to improve CRC screening rates. Medical visits (November 2007 to May 2010) were audio-taped and coded for IDM elements about CRC screening. Near the end of the study one provider refused recording of patients' visits (33 of 270 patients). Among all patients in the trial, agreement to be audio taped was 43.5 % (103/237). Evaluable patient (n = 100) visits were assessed for CRC screening discussion occurrence, IDM elements, and who initiated discussion of each IDM element.

Participants: Patients were African American (72.2 %), female (63.7 %), with annual household incomes <$20,000 (60.7 %), without health insurance (57.0 %), and limited health literacy (53.7 %).

Key results: Although CRC screening was mentioned during 48 (48 %) visits, no further discussion about screening occurred in 23 visits (19 times mentioned by the participant with no response from providers). During any visit, the maximum number of IDM elements was five; however, only two visits included five elements. The most common IDM element discussed in addition to the nature of the decision was the assessment of the patient's understanding in 16 (33.3 %) of the visits that included a CRC discussion.

Conclusions: A patient activation intervention initiated CRC screening discussions with health care providers; however, limited IDM occurred about CRC screening during medical visits of minority and low-income patients.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Decision Making*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Early Detection of Cancer / trends*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Practitioners / trends*
  • Patient Care Team / trends
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Patient Education as Topic / trends
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Professional-Patient Relations*